|Pussy Willows promise of spring to come.|
Yet each day seems to unfold as any other day with the demands and joys of every day life. Amid this life I am frequently beckoned to the backyard, if for no other reason than I have a dog. Some days, like today, I have to escort Bingley to the grass because he doesn't like to go out in the rain either. Other days I wander around my yard, my winter garden, with a shovel in hand collecting his waste. Today my shoes slipped in the mud as I traversed the soggy yard. As I righted myself, the thought occurred to me that the winter garden could be a metaphor for my grief.
Anyone who has a garden knows that sometimes things are lovely and other times not so lovely in the yard. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 reminds us that this is all part of God's plan:
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance..."
My yard is pretty bleak right now. All the trees are without their leaves. Moss is growing everywhere it can find to take root. No flowers are blooming. Yet in the garden the potential for spring exists. We know in a few months the whole earth will be bursting with life. In his poem, "Gone from My Sight, poet Bishop Brent reminds me about perspective comparing death to a sailing ship.
"And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'(S)He is gone',
There are others who are watching (her)his coming, and other voices take up the glad shout:
'There (s)he comes'
---and that is dying. An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further."
My father was a man of faith and for that reason I am assured that he indeed was greeted warmly on the other side. St. Francis of Assisi said it best, "It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
During the memorial service last week, I and my siblings all got up to speak. We divided up what we would say so as to not repeat ourselves. Out of our mouths came many examples of Dad's exemplary life and funny growing up stories to prove he was also very human. Sharing those stories helps keep Dad alive in our minds and our hearts. We are forever connected to him, as are our children and grandchildren. We are charged to carry Dad's memories with us along with our own, as Galway Kinnell reminds me in the poem "Promissory Note." But some of these memories threaten to swamp my little boat and I feel overwhelmed by the displays of grief from my siblings and mother and the looks of concern on the faces on friends.
So back to the garden I go. As I step outside, I hear the insistent call of our resident humming bird. He chatters away happily, though the skies are threatening to rain. The dog charges off after some imaginary friend or foe, running frantically to and fro. A frog sounds off with a deep croak. I am rooted in place by the joy of it all. How can this be? I come to the garden to mourn and instead find joy and life. Maya Angelou's beautiful poem, "When Great Trees Fall", reverberates around in my head reminding me that Dad lived and lives on.
"And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed."
I can be.
Be and be better.
For he existed.